Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Times: In defence of the Church (1)

Tuesday, 23rd March 2010 by Anton R. Borg, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK

John Guillamier (March 19) labels the Roman Catholic Church a disgraced institution as a consequence of the recent (and past) sexual scandals which have rightly attracted so much attention in the Western world.

He is quite right to castigate the Church for blundering so badly in dealing with the issue of paedophile priests; the evidence is there for all to see, and His Holiness the Pope addressed the subject in a pastoral letter this weekend and has made his profound distaste and dismay over this awful issue very plain. The Church no longer naively attempts to deal with these people in-house; I know (personally) a priest who has felt the full weight of British law recently having been reported by his Bishop to the police for such crimes.

Mr Guillamier is, however, selective in his assault over the issue of sexual activity between priests and other adults; priests have also been involved in banned activity with women, too! However, this problem has, in my view, been brought about by the ban on clerical marriage. It means that many men, who would otherwise make excellent priests, are prevented from exercising a vocation. Mr Guillamier's strident tone is also extremely unfair to the hundreds of thousands of priests worldwide, who, over the years, have exercised their duties (whatever their sexual orientation), often in very difficult circumstances, and sometimes in peril of losing their lives, with great distinction and without any moral or ethical misbehaviour.

In addition, to label the Church homophobic is also unjust - one cannot on the one hand accuse an institution of hatred towards a group of people, and, in the same sentence, castigate it for allowing them to belong to it! The Church bases its rules on the Bible; the Bible states repeatedly that homosexual activity is wrong; that is the nub of the problem. It is the activity that is frowned upon, not the sexual orientation. I can understand why gay people feel discriminated against as a result of this regulation. I would, too, had I been gay and wished to enter into a physical relationship with another man and remain a Catholic. It is a very difficult area which has to be addressed with great sensitivity.

Finally, Mr Guillamier has to realise that the Church is made up of human beings who reflect the actions of society at large as it prevails at the time. Incest and paedophilia went unpunished throughout society for far too long. Look at contemporary Maltese criminal law; how many paedophiles have been handed suspended sentences by the courts in recent years?

Such a heinous crime deserves punishment of the utmost severity as it does very serious harm to the victims. I have been a GP for 25 years and have witnessed numerous examples of this damage to people. Internet child pornography is created at the expense of innocent children being terribly abused in front of cameras, yet, in Malta, a prison sentence seems to be a rare consequence of this most disgusting crime. Society as a whole needs to address this very challenging area of human behaviour.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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